Last Halloween, my son decided to be Jacob Frye from Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. I have an instructable on creating the full costume, but I wanted to highlight the making of the Kukri knife, specifically the painting process of acheiving no brush strokes on the blade and simulating wood grain on foam. The few construction shots I have are from the first rendition of the knife for my son. The “Kukri 2.0” was created for one of my Etsy clients in Belgium. All of the painting process is with the second knife.
Step 1: Supplies and Tools
Paper (for patterns)
Thick Faux Leather - I got mine from Fabric.com. They have a great selection although there's minimum purchase amounts - I got 2 yards and I have enough to make about 5 more sheaths at least...
1.5 inch single prong buckle - amazon
6 mm craft foam/eva foam 3-4 sheets 8.5x11
2 mm craft foam/eva foam 4-5 sheets 8.5x11
fiberglass rod - I used one of those driveway reflector/marker things on a stick from Home Depot
sanding sticks - sandpaper and paint stir sticks, 60, 120, 220, 400 Grit
dremel/rotary tool - sanding drum or stone bit and cutting bit
Barge cement (or Weldwood other contact cement, but Barge is the best, I ordered mine from amazon I think. It's not cheap but it will last a long time. I also have the Barge thinner for when it thickens up over time)
googly eyes for rivets - I think mine were 10mm
syringe with large needle (optional, mine had a 18 or 20g needle)
tiny bit of pva glue (optional, enough to put a dab in the googly eyes. )
spray primer (any color, for the googly eyes, don't skip this or the paint won't stick to them)
Creature Cast Liquid Rubber Semi-Rigid - you can also try another rigidity, that's just what I had. (or latex or plastidip or your choice of material to coat and seal the foam) http://creaturecastrubber.com/new-products
Creature Cast thickener http://creaturecastrubber.com/new-products
Critter Spray Gun and a couple extra mason jars
Compressor for spray gun
Mask or respirator for spraying and sanding - I bought an RZ mask M1 from Amazon
SATIN Clear Spraypaint - I used Krylon ColorMaxx, don't use gloss - it will look terrible.
Silver acrylic paint - I used Artminds Brushed Metallics in Warm Silver, but Sargent Liquid Metal is also good. These need to be thinned to use in the Critter Gun - I just used water.
Liquitex Basics Acylic Paint - not thin craft acrylics - in the following colors:
Liquitex Glazing Medium
Cheap thin matte craft paint in dark brown and black
Sargent Liquid Metal in gold or other good quality gold paint (not cheap craft paint - it will rub off too easily)
Cheap rough bristled brushes (small) - you want it streaky
Nicer smooth bristled brushes (small and really small)
little disposable cups with lids to put paint in (or a paper plate or palette)
Wet sandpaper (400 grit, 1000-2500 grit)
Hair-dryer or patience (I used some of both for waiting for layers and layers of paint to dry)
Heat gun or propane torch (to seal the foam)
aluminum foil (I used it under the knife while spraying it)
saran wrap - either the kitchen kind or the packing kind is fine
box cutter - the snap-off kind
sharpener (optional, but not really - foam dulls knives really fast)
xacto knife and extra blades
wire or string - to hang to dry
sewing machine (or patience to hand sew)
brown thread - to match your faux leather
Step 2: Carving the Kukri
I started with a making a pattern by printing out a picture of the knife from the internet at the correct size. The first knife was about 16 inches. The second knife was 18-19 inches long. The blade is made of 2 layers of 6mm foam and the handle is 4 in total. I cut out my pattern and traced around it onto the foam with a silver sharpie twice flipping over the pattern for the second set. I used a box cutter (freshy sharpened) to cut out the shape of the pattern.
Starting with the handle, I cut a groove in the back side for the fiberglass rod. The blade was also designed to fit into the handle so it overlapped a bit to make the joint stronger. I cut out an area for the end of the blade to fit in, as well. I then used a dremel sanding bit to carve a groove into the blade being careful not to break through the foam. The fiberglass rod only goes up to the curve in the blade. I used a driveway marker with a reflector on top as my fiberglass rod. I used the dremel to cut through a piece of masking tape at the length I needed it.
I coated the whole blade and handle inside part with barge cement - both sides. I also coated the fiberglass with barge. Let that dry for 10-15 minutes. I fit the fiberglass rod in one side of the blade and sandwiched it with the other side of the blade. I then fit the blade and rod inside one side of the handle and then added the second side. Take your time working with barge and foam - there are no undos. The foam will rip before the barge fails.
Then I began to carve the foam with the box cutter. Keep sharpening as you go. I cut on a sloping angle on both sides of the blade on the bottom edge - sharpening the kukri. Then I carved the edges off the handle making it vaguely rounder. To even out the edges and smooth and shape all the curves I use sanding sticks I made (thank you Evil Ted). I glued 60, 120, 220, 400 grit sandpapers onto paint stir sticks with barge cement. It makes the sand paper a lot easier to handle. Alternatively you can buy sanding sticks (they look like nail files), but making them you have a lot more control on the grits you choose and they are much cheaper. So, I used the sanding sticks in succession from roughest to smoothest to shape the foam. Wear a particle mask when sanding foam the dust it creates is not good for you and it gets e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.
Next, I worked on the details in the handle. I cut the Assassin's Creed logo out of foam using an xacto knife with a new blade. It's very tedious. I tried several times before I was happy. You need two - one for each side. You also need thin strips of foam to make the bands around the handle. Use a ruler to cut them straight. Cut them slightly longer than you need and wrap them around the handle. I cut them in place then take them back off to barge them and the corresponding area on the handle. Let it dry and stick it in place. Don't forget the ends of the strips so they stick together and don't form a gap. I would locate the seam on the bottom edge of the knife's handle. To glue on the logo, I put barge on the logo and then while wet I stick it in place and pick it up immediately. This applies barge cement in just the area you need it. Then reapply barge to the logo and wait 10 minutes before sticking it in place. There's a piece added to the blade where it attaches to the handle that is like a half oval shape. Attach it the same way. The blood groove is made with an xacto blade and a ruler. Do not cut all the way through. It just needs a small scoring. The heat applied later will open the slice. The stud/rivet is actually made with a googly eye! Only I hate when they rattle. So I use a syringe filled with pva glue and inject some into the eye. A little weird, but it works! Do not apply the eyeball yet! Use a spray primer on them and let them dry. To keep them in place while spraying them (so they don't blow away) stick them to a piece of sticky side up tape and attach it to some cardboard with another piece of tape. Meanwhile take a torch or a heat gun and seal the foam. You just want to make it sparkle a little. Don't let it burn. After you've sealed the foam and the eyeball is dry use some barge and glue it on. You don't want to put the eyeball on first because it will melt. To seal up any gaps in the bands and on the bottom of the handle of the knife, use Kwik-seal. This is not sandable so smooth it with a finger dipped in water. Make sure it's smooth before you let it dry.
The whole blade and handle is then coated in Creature Cast liquid rubber (neoprene not latex). I used semi-rigid. I used a brush the first time, but on the second knife I used my new critter gun. A critter gun is a spray gun that you hook up to a compressor and you can spray basically anything if it's thin enough - which this is more than necessary. I was given the advice to use the thickener, that Creature Cast makes, just a little bit. The creature cast has a tendency to not want to stick to itself after the first layer, but the thickener is supposed to help that problem. I haven't tried it yet. Alternatively you can keep moving it around with a brush as it's drying. I put 5-6 coats on I think. Creature cast is sandable! Any drips or weird bumps you find can be sanded off. I gave the whole knife a once over with 400 grit sandpaper before the next step, as well.
Step 3: Sheath Construction
I don't have any pictures from constructing the sheath. I'm not sure why I missed that part. I started with my pattern. I drew a shape around the knife itself. I pretended to be pulling the knife out of the sheath and realized it needed to be much wider to accommodate the curve in the knife being pulled out. When I was satisfied with the shape I cut out the pattern twice on thick faux leather leaving an inch for seam allowance. Leaving enough at the top to fold in several inches so the backing wouldn't show. I top sewed the sheath together an inch from the edge then used a pair of sharp scissors to trim the seam allowance really small. The belt was made of two layers of faux leather also top sewed together then trimming the seam allowance really small. The problem with my faux leather is it has a white backing. So the edges looked terrible. I used a brown sharpie and colored the edges of all the faux leather. I used a leather punch to punch a hole in the belt a few inches from the end and attached the buckle. I used two rivets to attach the faux leather to itself folded over the buckle. I added a small strip around the belt as a belt loop holder thing - whatever you'd call that piece! I used the leather punch more to make holes in the other end of the belt. I made several holes so it would look real and so it's adjustable. I made sure one of the holes was in the right place for the hip measurement I had. The belt is attached to the sheath with another strap made of faux leather - thinner this time. It's hard to explain but it's crossed in an "X" and wrapped around. The ends of the strap are secured with barge only to itself so the sheath can slide on the belt.
Then I started on the foam parts of the sheath. I again made paper patterns for the main shape as well as the swirly scrolly parts. I cut the parts out of 2mm craft foam. The swirly parts were glued on with barge and then both parts were folded around the sheath and glued on with barge. The edges were then sanded with the dremel to blend the foam. The part with the logo I did several times again. Because it needed to have bent parts I kept getting the size slightly off or cutting the circle was too rough, but eventually I was happy with it. The parts were dremeled around the edges to blend the foam layers.
I then masked off the faux leather part and applied the creature cast - several coats. Sand down any imperfections but don't sand down too deep or it will rip up the craft foam.
Step 4: Painting Silver
I wrapped the belts around the sheath and used saran wrap and a lot of painters tape to mask the faux leather part of the sheath. I did the same for the handle of the knife.
The first knife I painted by brush, but this last one I used my critter gun with thinned acrylic paint. I put several thin thin coats of silver on the blade and the detail in the sheath. Don't put it on too heavy or it will pool or drip. No brush strokes is awesome! You can use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process. Otherwise this will take days I swear.
Check out the comparison of the two blades. The bigger one is so much cleaner!
Step 5: Faux Wood Handle
I unmasked the handle of the knife. Using Basics acrylic paint, I started with some burnt sienna and white to give it a light base coat. This one was opaque and relatively smooth. The next layers however were streaky with a cheap brush (on purpose) to try to simulate wood grain. I mixed the paint with the glazing medium to make it a little transparent. I went from light to dark in several layers. The last two layers were done with craft acrylic paint mixed with some glazing medium. I thought it looked terrible. I did some research and learned you could wet sand acrylic paint. I broke out the sandpaper and started wet-sanding the wood area. It all of a sudden looked amazing, but too light. The thin craft paint came off too easily compared to the thicker basics paint. So I started over. I left it where it was and started layering the paint again, chunky and streaky with glazing medium. I went out and bought some darker colors in basics too. The very last layer I painted the whole wood part of the handle with black CRAFT paint, because I wanted most of it to come off. I then broke out the sandpaper again (400 grit) and wet-sanded down the "wood." I'm so tickled with the result.
I moved onto the gold accents. I use Liquid Metal paint for the gold and a tiny brush. Went I finish the gold I went back with thinned black craft paint and accumulated "dirt" around the raised parts of the handle. I feathered the paint with a finger dipped in water.
This was a huge step up from the first knife's paint job.
Step 6: The Sheath Weathering and Gloss Coat Issues.
I did a little bit of weathering on the sheath but I didn't want it too dramatic. I just used a black craft paint wash and wiped most of it off with a paper towel. I attached the logo piece to the sheath with 2 rivets.
Now that the painting was completed I wanted to protect the blade at least with a clear coat of some kind. I attempted to use Pledge future floor finish which is highly used in the cosplay industry for gloss coats. It's really really glossy. It looked terrible. I broke out the sand paper again and wet sanded it off (along with a little paint). I had to re-mask the handle and paint the blade AGAIN. I was afraid to use painter's tape on the fresh acrylic paint of the handle so I just wrapped it tightly with saran wrap and that worked. I repainted the blade several more coats with the critter gun. I was frustrated so I didn't take pictures off that part. The blade recovered nicely and I was back in business. I then found a krylon satin clear coat (spray paint). I gave it a couple light coats and it was just enough shine without being blinding. I chose not to coat the wood handle. I was afraid to ruin it. It looks too good. However basics acrylics are permanent and waterproof once dried thoroughly so I think it will be fine.
Step 7: Finally the Photo Shoot and Shipping!
My son graciously dressed up in his costume again for me to take pictures of the new kukri knife. Once all the paint cured/dried, I packed it up and said goodbye! I was sad to see it go. I hope my client appreciates the work that went into it's re-design. I plan on re-doing the first kukri to improve it's finish.
Check me out on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/DreamofDahlia